The game of augmented reality has been in the news lately. The latest news is that Niantic has made its first major change to the Pokemon GO game. In the game, players track down and catch Pokemon characters in real life. The game had a way to get candy from these characters, and to get these rewards, players had to have enough Pokemon characters on their teams. The game was too tough of a grind without the candy, so players started calling for the game to change. Niantic has now complied.

Pokemon Go players are intensifying their boycott of the game as Niantic makes only minor concessions to COVID’s demands.

The Pokemon Go craze has been enormous, so much so that some people can’t get enough of the app. But the fun is coming to a screeching halt for people on the California coast. Niantic, the makers of Pokemon Go, have promised to re-open the Pokemon Gyms in the area, but only if the developer gets access to the coastline’s underwater lands. A petition asking for the closure to be lifted has gotten 5,000 signatures and counting, claiming that Niantic’s plan “is not fair or just.” The developer also faces a lawsuit from the California Coastal Commission for the same reason.

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Niantic has received years of criticism from everyone from accessibility activists to non-urban gamers, as anybody who follows our Massively on the Go column and its long-running Pokemon Go coverage knows. During the worldwide pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the business intelligently modified the game to minimize the risk of players spreading the virus across the globe. Niantic decreased the amount of walking required, boosted the number of spawns, introduced remote raids, and made a lot more content available from home — even during lockdowns.

But, as we’ve been reporting, Niantic has been dead set on reversing most of those changes, which has enraged the playerbase yet again: first, because the pandemic is far from over and, thanks to mutations in the COVID virus, is on the verge of a new wave, and second, because disability and accessibility advocates see Niantic as closing the door on their participation in the game.

To that end, players recently protested Niantic with a “Pokemon No Day,” a petition with over 166,000 signatures, and a manifesto from the community that stated that players do not want a return to the game that directs them into unsafe, disrespectful, and difficult-to-access locations; instead, they demanded that Niantic recognize the community’s diversity and inclusivity and respond b

Greetings, @NianticLabs Your community is counting on you to handle the latest #PokemonGO in-game changes. We love this game and the community we’ve created together, so #HearUsNiantic. In this game, inclusion and diversity are essential. Demonstrate that you are aware of this. pic.twitter.com/1N6EAaM5m2

August 5, 2021 — ZoTwoDots (@ ZoeTwoDots)

The business has finally responded, albeit not to all of the players’ requests. It maintains that its new exploration incentives were introduced in “certain regions where it is considered safe to go outside,” which clearly gamers do not agree with. And, as MOP’s Andrew pointed out yesterday, it’s tough to argue that a video game business knows best when health and safety experts can’t agree on safety during COVID, especially when the game in issue has directly led to 22 fatalities and 61 injuries.

A few concessions are available from the business. It’s forming a “internal cross-functional team to create ideas intended to maintain our goal of encouraging people to explore the world together, while simultaneously addressing particular issues expressed about interaction distance,” according to the company.

“We’ve listened to your input on one specific adjustment – the PokéStop and Gym interaction distance. Starting in the United States and New Zealand, we reduced the interaction distance from 80 meters to 40 meters because we want people to connect to actual locations in the real world and visit areas worth visiting.”

Needless to say, the organizers of the campaign were not placated, and they are still pushing for a boycott.

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